Wednesday, August 15: Glacier
Are we in Switzerland?
I am writing this surrounded by lots of dead animals. But I am getting ahead of myself.
We got up and had breakfast at the hotel. Then we headed north past Duck Lake to enter the park at the Many Glaciers entrance. This is essentially a dead-end road into an area with lots of glaciers. We stopped at one point to take pictures of an osprey nest on a telephone pole.
As we traveled up river, we suddenly came across a dam, which made the Sherburne Lake. It was very picturesque as we proceeded along its shores. Eventually it turned into a stream again, and then we pulled over by a small waterfall. Next to the trail were large clumps of huckleberries, which are apparently slightly different from blueberries. They were quite tasty, however. Just beyond was a turnoff to the Many Glacier Hotel.
We had been saying to ourselves for a while that this countryside looked very much like traditioal Switzerland. To complement this, the hotel was done in a Swiss style. It looked like a Bavarian Chalet. This was obviously intentional, as the inside was decorated with lots of Swiss flag motifs, not to mention the bellman wearing lederhosen.
It had a huge lobby, with an interesting chimney over a central fire pit. It was suspended from above, rather than resting on the ground, and you could raise or lower the cone over the fire.
We went to the restaurant, which also had a high lofted roof. There was a huge stone fireplace at one end. it was no longer used as such, and the inside was filled with a large bouquet of flowers. These provided a colorful contrast to the fire-blackened stone. We got a table with a great view through large windows across a small lake to the mountains and the glaciers behind. Unfortunately, the glaciers are much smaller than in years past, and they estimate that in another one or two decades the glaciers will be gone completely.
For some strange reason, I felt compelled to eat greasy sausage for lunch, so I ordered the Elk Bratwurst. Amy got some herbal tea that came in the most interesting tea bags. Each was packaged in a box in the shape of a pyramid, and the “bag” itself was in the same shape. It was very unique and interesting.
As we ate, we noticed a large number of people across the lake along the road looking intently at something with binoculars and scopes. We looked from our vantage point, but we couldn’t see what they were seeing.
We definitely need to come back here someday when we can stay in the lodges inside the park.
After lunch, as we were leaving, we ran across a ranger and a group of people outside the lodge, looking at something through a scope. The ranger explained that it was a she-bear (grizzly) and two cubs.
We drove around the edge of the lake and joined the other group. I figured that my camera would get a “find the bear” picture, so I left it in the car, just bringing my binoculars.
When we first got there, the bear was buried in brush, but then she came out, and through the binoculars, she was magnificent to see. She was slowly coming down the hillside, that is, coming closer and closer to us. At that point, I decided that my big lens would in fact get a decent photo, so I dashed back to the car to get my camera, change lenses, and get my tripod. Unfortunately, by the time I got back, the bear had gone into a large stand of trees out of sight. So I never did get grizzly pictures, although Amy did.
We waited a little to see if it would come out and cross the road, but it didn’t, so we left.
We continued to the end of the road, then retraced our steps. We got out to Babb (only about 14 miles from Canada), then turned south to get to the main road through the park. We figured we had about a 3-hour drive to get through the park and to our hotel, and it was mid-afternoon, so we couldn’t dilly-dally too much.
As we drove up the valley, the cloud-cover, which had been solid, began to break up. We stopped at a waterfall next to the road for some pictures. When we got to Logan Pass, we found that the sky to the west was mostly clear and sunny. We saw a trail that looks really scary. It crosses the meadow and then runs along the middle of a cliff. It looks like the cliff drops essentially vertically to the trail, and then vertically below it. We might try that trail in the next few days, but I don’t know if I would complete it.
Continuing down the western side of Logan Pass, I had to marvel at the engineering. In places, you could see it blasted out of the cliff side, almost like a tunnel with one side being the cliff face. That is, you could see the cliff dropping almost vertically until a slight undercut gets to the roadway, and then it drops almost vertically below the highway.
Also, as we were getting more sun, and as we were on the western side of the pass, we got some great views of the mountains (requiring picture stops). In the next few days we will have to do a bunch of hiking.
Deserts, particularly Zion and Bryce are OK, but I find I really like these types of mountains, with the sub-alpine meadows, the wild flowers, the trees and waterfalls.
We eventually got to the bottom and followed a stream until we got to McDonald Lake. As we drove around it, we came to the McDonald Lodge. As it was about 7:00, and as it would certainly be a better dinner than some random place in Whitefish, we stopped there for dinner.
They had an interesting way of calling you when your table was ready. Rather than calling your name or giving you a pager, when you put your name in, they gave you a little sign with some local place name. Then when your table was ready, they came out to the lobby or lounge and either looked for that name or called out that name.
I started writing today’s log in the lobby. It turns out that this building pre-dates the national park. It was originally a hunting lodge, and so the lobby is festooned with lots of animal heads. Hence my opening comment about writing this surrounded by dead animals.
This place is really nice. It would be even nicer if we were staying here, and that after dinner we could just wander around the grounds next to the lake, watching the sun set, and then going to bed.
We just got to tonight’s accommodations--Grouse Mountain Resort. Our GPS took us on a scenic tour of some very expensive neighborhoods with some really nice houses in them. Then we finally came to the resort. It looked nice. It look *really* nice.
Then when we checked in, we found out why. The room rate was something like $230 per night! When Amy had made the reservations, she had been under the impression that this was inside the national park, and so she was willing to pay such a rate. Instead, we found that it is about 45 minutes outside the park. It turns out that we could have gotten something closer and cheaper (but not nearly as ritzy), but as we made the reservations so close to this date (as in one or two days ago), it was non-refundable. So we might as well enjoy this place as much as we can. We’re here for two nights, and then we move to a place in the park (not as nice, much better location, cheaper rate) for two nights.
I have to say that if today has been any indication, I’m going to really enjoy Glacier NP.